Attempting to win the war with myself – #OneTwoFreeYourSkin

Girl in orange skirt lying on Brighton pebble beach with a drink

As I get older, the more clarity I seem to have on myself as a person. When each year passes, I know myself a little more and understand what makes me tick, what makes me joyous and what makes me sad. What is it they say? In youth we learn, in old age we understand.

Now, I’m only just 28 so I’m not quite over the hill yet! But what once may have made me sit in my bedroom struck with anxiety, unable to cope, may now become a small blip in my day, before I am able to simply move on. Issues such as friendship woes, career dips, a fight with my partner, or even what I see on the scales at the gym, I now look at through experienced eyes and fix the problem with consideration and tact.

Learning to love my body

Something I’m struggling slightly more with however, is the ability to love my own body and face. I’ve always felt I’m fighting a losing battle against myself. As I’m getting older too, the mirror has seen a lot of action whilst I poke and prod my face, worrying over new fine lines and wondering if I’ve always had that freckle.

I read a brilliant article in the Metro recently, about a girl learning to love herself. She said: “For so long, I pictured my body as temporary and so never made it a home…I didn’t touch it, feed it or love it properly, but focused on how little time I could spend in it.”

This really struck a chord with me and actually made me quite tearful. For so long, I have had this ‘ideal’ me in my head, waiting for the time when I finally become that person. In reality, I’ve been ignoring the person I truly am and missing the beauty of myself completely. I look back at pictures of myself at uni and see how wonderful I looked, although I can recall the struggle it would have taken me to leave the house that day. I wish I could tell her.

Skin communication

Something else I’ve learnt over the last couple of years is how much my body can tell me about how I feel. The bloating I once wrote off as ‘fat’ is now dealt with using a personalised diet plan, because my body wasn’t enjoying what I put into it. My skin, where once a flare-up of eczema on my eyelids, my thighs, my stomach would cause a flash of annoyance, now tells me that I’m super stressed about something. I now take a step back, analyse what might be upsetting me (as I may not have even realised it myself, yet) and then take action.

Of course, dealing with the problem helps, but the skin issue remains for a while. Again, experience comes with age. I used to think that stripping the skin with chems and exposing it to sunlight helped (please don’t – I know). I now have a wide range of products that help me when I’m having a flare-up, and I can usually combat any problem patches before it gets out of control. Something I think that really helps is the focus on good skincare in the media and the absolute transparency many brands have on which ingredients they use and what exactly they do.

Winning the war – eventually

I’m not a full-on lover of myself quite yet, although I’m all for supporting other women in their journeys to self-love. I always try to remember: no one is criticising you more than you are criticising yourself.

These things take time however, and when you’ve thought in a certain way for so long, it can be a hard habit to break. I think becoming more self-aware about the potential to love ourselves is a fantastic step forward – and something I’ll take as a win.

I’m looking forward to seeing what stage I’m at – where we’re ALL at – in another ten years. Fingers crossed we love ourselves completely, eczema and all.

This blog post was written as part of an Epaderm competition. Epaderm® is available online, in-store and on prescription.

TEN YEARS IN LONDON

Pink London phoneboxes

When I was about 8 or 9, we visited my Grandmother in London. I remember looking out across her balcony at the city and saying that one day, I’d live in London. That sounds very romantic, we are talking about Archway here…but I never forgot that, and it’s something I worked towards when studying for exams. I’ve now been in London for ten years. TEN! I’d known this anniversary was coming for a while and wanted to mark it somehow.

On 19th September 2009, I packed pretty much everything I owned and my mum drove me to Clayhill Student Halls in Kingston upon Thames. It was the first time I’d been away from home and I was low-key dreading it. However, I absolutely knew that I wanted to leave my hometown and be independent.

When my mum had left and I’d made my tiny room my own, I sat on the bed and realised that I was truly alone there. I began to panic and worry I’d made the wrong decision, when the door buzzed. It was the girls downstairs inviting me for a drink. And so began my life.

The last ten years have been a bit of a ride for me. Not so much ups and downs but glorious fun interspersed with absolute rock bottom.

I could write my life story, but ain’t nobody got time for that, so here’s a list of some of the notable things that have happened to me over ten years in London.

IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

  • Got a degree, 2:1 thank you
  • Worked in a bar and two restaurants and met the best and worst of humanity
  • Had two close friends die, far too young
  • A relationship with a man much too old for me
  • Broke my pelvis
  • Lost a best friend through my own stupidity and selfishness
  • Been on countless dates
  • Learned a new language
  • Had two (2) nervous breakdowns
  • Been fired from a job
  • Lived in Dubai for a short while
  • Started this blog!
  • Went to four festivals
  • Broke up (mutually) with my first love
  • Got glandular fever and didn’t get out of bed for a month
  • Rebuilt my relationship with my dad
  • Got two tattoos
  • Lived off £10 per week for two months
  • Met some truly abysmal people – and subsequently realised I can cut people out if they’re toxic
  • Had two long-term relationships
  • Visited ten (10) countries – nowhere near enough!
  • Am still unable to fix my unhealthy relationship with my own body and looks
  • Moved house nine (9) times
  • Began a career in PR
  • Lost contact with too many people to count
  • Made new friends as my life changed
  • Became a Freelance Writer
  • Met my future husband

So, so much has changed and I’m a completely different person to the girl who arrived in London singing Taylor Swift’s 2008 album down the motorway and not knowing what to expect. I still don’t to be honest, but I’ve learned it’s half the fun. At the risk of sounding super wanky, I’m still on my journey, figuring out who I am.

If you’d like me to properly write up anything you found interesting in the above, let me know.

Life is about to change again, with our impending nuptials. Where will we be in another ten years? Let’s wait and see.

Anxiety by night: the sleep-stealing b**tard

My fiancé can fall asleep anywhere. I mean anywhere – on a bus, the tube, waiting for me in a dressing room – but also within seconds in his own bed. My ability to sleep, conversely, is a different story. I’ve always struggled with falling asleep and am an incredibly light sleeper – but in more recent years falling asleep has become a real problem.

I believe this stems from my anxiety disorder. Sometimes I’ll just be struck with this intense dread that I can’t shake. It feels as though I’m just about to take the biggest exam of my life. It rises deep from within and can sometimes feel like a physical pain. Alas, the bloody exam doesn’t even exist.

I can lie awake for hours even though I’m so tired and then struggle to focus on the next day with no sleep. How about an afternoon nap, you might say? Forget it. I could never.

HOWEVER, there are many reasons why insomnia can occur and ways you can ease it.

Not alone, hun

Episodes of insomnia are suuuuper common. In fact, it’s estimated that a third of us will struggle with it at some time in our lives.

Although I do struggle with falling asleep, I’ve developed my own ‘sleep hygiene’ system which sometimes works for me. This includes things like avoiding alcohol, not drinking any caffeine after 12pm, not eating a big meal past 8pm and doing my best to stay off my phone when I’m in bed. You can read more about sleep hygiene here. After a good night’s sleep, I feel much more productive and clear-headed.

Sometimes though, it’s worth looking into a little extra help.

  • I have heard that Lush Sleepy Body Lotion can give you that extra boost. It’s filled with lavender oil which has long been thought to aid sleep and using it tells your body that it’s time to start relaxing for bed – has anyone had a good experience with this?
  • Using a White Noise machine works for some babies, why not adults? Especially living in London with all those sirens. I usually use Spotify and play some rainforest sounds, but there are also dedicated sleep aids on the market I’d be intrigued to use.
  • There are also the oft-discussed benefits of getting jiggy with your partner or yourself to aid sleep! I’m no scientist, but a round with the LELO Sona Cruise will have you absolutely zonked out!

To Bedfordshire, we ride

Listening to your body truly is key. If you’re struggling, it may be time to make some adjustments to your sleep routine. Easy changes, like turning off your phone and computer an hour before bed, meditating, going to bed at the same time each night and making sure your room is dark can all improve your odds of catching a good night’s sleep. If you’re still struggling though, it may be time to speak to your GP.

What is it about Morrisons?

At the risk of sounding like the most boring person alive, I love doing our weekly food shop. We always plan our meals and heading to Morrisons for our weekly meander around the aisles is one of my favourite things to do with Will.

He’s the trolley-pusher, I’m the list holder and item picker. If they had an Olympics for fastest couple to scan and bag, we’d win. However, I love it not simply because of the cracking deals, but because we’ve had some of our best conversations in Morrisons.

Good and bad, those aisles have seen a fair whack of emotions throughout our relationship. We had our first conversation about moving in together near the crisps. The pasta aisle saw me slam some pesto into the trolley and flounce off ahead because Will had to unexpectedly work that night [and I was just being a wee cow tbh]. Don’t worry, we had made up by the time we got to the bread. World foods saw me have a near-panic attack and shed a few tears over a horrible situation near the start of this year, and confectionary saw us have a debate about the amount of sugar our future children should have(!)

We also talk through our plans for the week, what we’ve got coming up, what’s on our minds and how we feel about things in general. 

There might be some science behind this though. According to WalkCoachLearn: “When we sit down we are often face-to-face. This can produce a sense of confrontation – me versus you. When we walk, we are side-by-side. We are moving together facing the problem and working together to find solutions – us versus the problem.”

Here’s why I think it works

It’s carved out time

We know, no matter how busy our weeks are, that we’ll have at least one, dedicated hour or so in which we are focused on each other and what we each have to say. When we’re running around like crazy all week, it’s something to look forward to.

It lessens the need for eye contact

It can be hard to look someone in the eye when you’re talking about something difficult. Being side-by-side can make you feel more at ease and less under pressure.

We’re working together

It’s food shopping, not rocket science. But it’s a task we’ve done hundreds of times and it’s like a well-oiled machine. We’re a team in smashing out a weekly shop AND understanding each other on a deeper level.

No interruptions

Have ye ever tried to push a trolley when on your phone? It doesn’t work very well. For this time, we are focused only on each other and there’s no TV, phones, or other people [bar the general public – JEEZ] to distract us.

Of course, Morrisons isn’t a holy, fluorescent pilgrimage site for pre-marital conversations. Anywhere you can walk and talk will work – the park is a good one. Additionally, you don’t need to be as far down the relationship path as we are. First dates can be awkward AF and the thought of sitting opposite someone might fill you with dread. Instead, walk through Borough Market or along Southbank to ease the pressure.

Seriously though, next time you need to have a difficult chat or just talk freely – take a walk [or get yerself down to Morrisons].

 

My Epic Skin Journey – #OneTwoFreeYourSkin

fruit flatlay watermelon pineapple lemon kiwi to treat eczema– this post contains gifted products –

I’ve always had problem, eczema-prone skin. My childhood included trips to the doctor, hydrocortisone, a lot of itching…and all my memories smell like Oilatum Bath Emollient. Very annoying when my little brother was subsequently born with the soft skin of an angel! Luckily though, my mum figured out what worked for me and we were able to keep a happy medium for a good few years, able to deal with any flare ups when they happened.

Teenage years

Fast-forward a few years though, and along came puberty. With that came heavy kohl eyeliner and Natural Collection mascara, taken off at the end of the day with the cheapest makeup remover I could buy. Adding that to the hormonal changes my skin was going through, I had a big issue. The skin underneath my eyes was raw with eczema – painful, itchy and not to mention, embarrassing. After heading to the doctor and coming back with yet more medical skin treatment, I then went through several years of trial and error on my skin.

Some new products could instantly flare my skin up, with eczema and an allergic reaction which was like little bubbles under the skin. It was a real case of ‘try and see’, as I didn’t know what was causing the reactions – I dread to think how much I spent on wasted skincare!

I’m 27 now, and it’s only the last couple of years that I feel I’ve finally cracked it. My daily skincare routine includes ONLY Garnier products. This is odd, as I wouldn’t say they’re specifically developed for sensitive skin. Even more odd, when I can’t use E45, Simple or really any brand that shouts about being good for sensitive skin. This isn’t just my face either: my whole body revolted when I covered myself head-to-toe in L’Oreal Gradual Tanner ahead of an event…that was a fun few days!

I’d really like to try some Avène or La Roche-Posay products as I’ve heard they’re amazing. However, I’m put off by the price. What do you think? Worth it? I spend ages scouring Cult Beauty and Beauty Bay looking at trendy, Instagrammable brands such as Mario Badescu and Sunday Riley…but I just don’t think my skin could take it!

My daily products:

A little extra help

I’m quite comfortable with my skin routine at the moment, but sometimes my skin will have a hissy fit if I use the toner, so I try to limit that to a couple of times a week. I’ve noticed a real difference though, in terms of how my anxiety, eating habits and stress affects my skin. This has been due to a conscious effort to LISTEN to my body more. Back in May when I first became freelance, my skin went haywire and the eczema patches under my eyes came back with a vengeance. A historic patch of eczema on my right leg (weirdly?) reared its head again and I felt really low.

My normal skincare routine just didn’t cut it, so I used working from home to my advantage. Not wearing makeup at all, letting my skin breathe and intermittently using specialist eczema and problem skin products.

This included creams that had about 1% hydrocortisone for my face and aqueous cream elsewhere. Boots do a cream that is specifically for around the eye area but I can’t use it as I’m sensitive to Lanolin. I also stopped using foaming / soapy body wash and in an epic throwback to my childhood, used an Oilatum shower gel (oh the memories!).

Side note: do NOT use Sudocrem on your eczema, especially if on your face! Not sure why it’s recommended for that but it stung me and if anything made it worse.

Moving forwards

Luckily, I’m much more settled now and my skin has calmed down a lot. I’m using a brand called Epaderm at the moment to keep things under control. I use the ointment at night on my problem areas or after a heavy makeup day – it’s quite thick and just provides a fantastic barrier for me. I’m not sure if it’s psychological, but I feel like my skin is ‘healing’ with it on. I’ve also added this to a bath – it doesn’t create bubbles but what’s not to like when you’ve got Netflix and a glass of wine on the go? I’m back to using normal shower gel at the moment (can someone say Imperial Leather MARSHMALLOW? Hello!). However, I use the Epaderm skin cleanser in the shower twice a week to ensure my skin doesn’t get above itself and expect sweet treats constantly.

I definitely think that listening to my body and ensuring I’m treating myself kindly is the most important thing. Fingers crossed, everything is on the up at the moment.